It seems every day I run into people at work or just in the community who are generally dissatisfied if not downright belligerent. The holiday season definitely aggravates this. I often wonder what is behind the actions and words I hear from them. Most of the time, it’s because they want something they think they are entitled to (for whatever reason) and are not getting. Other times, I think it’s really something else going on in their lives that is really driving the bad behavior. I read a good blog post by my friend Brad Warner (here) about what he terms “the Iguana effect”. For those of you who don’t want to read his post, basically it boils down to this: when we are provoked by or threatened by someone or something we don’t think we can fight against, we usually lash out at someone or something we think we can (ie. Family, friends, or your friendly neighborhood VA nurse). I will say that it is particularly unsafe to point this out to your wife when she is mad, unless you like sleeping on the couch.
It is a pretty good explanation, but I think there is a little more to it. We are all generally dissatisfied with something. Our jobs, financial situation, golf game…whatever. We feel the need for better. Satisfaction just isn’t built in to our DNA. Or maybe it’s a cultural thing. We’ve all been told from a very young age not to settle. Some of us just can’t accept that we will always be bad golfers, so we keep grinding away trying to get a better result (if that isn’t the definition of insanity I don’t know what is). And I’m quite sure the messages we get from the media and other people don’t really help. You’ve got an iPhone 4? Well you NEED an iPhone 5S. Your car is a 2006 model? You really should trade that old junker in on a new car. I could go on, but the point is why? Why can’t we ever seem to be satisfied? I have a great life, a great family, a good job, my health, and a nice place to live. That should be enough. And it is for the most part. I mean, I’m generally aggravated at the fact that I can’t hit a 3 foot putt, but in the grand scheme of things, who cares?
Maybe those people I see that are mostly disagreeable have one of those elements out of whack. Maybe a family member is sick, or their job really sucks, or nobody sent them a Christmas card and they are just lashing out like the iguana whose had his tail yanked. Could be they weren’t able to provide their loved ones with the Christmas presents they wanted. Maybe they’re just a jerk. I try to put myself in their shoes and have compassion. Of course that doesn’t always work, or I figure their motives are less than noble and I can be a little harsh in judging them.
Sorry if this comes off too preachy. Not my intent. Just thinking out loud (or in print). I try to remind myself daily how fortunate I truly am (again I refer to the hot wife, just hot in a different sense). Anyway, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone. I hope you are as fortunate in the upcoming year as I have been this past year.